We have great weather, flat topography and bad traffic – all the things that might make a person want to ride their bike. But, we also have a poor safety record and few protected bike lanes or connected trails for many people to get around safely and comfortably on bikes.
With these reasons in mind, Bike Walk Central Florida in partnership with Healthy Central Florida, FDOT, Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation, got together for a group ride with area leaders to have a first hand look at some of the roads, trails and sidewalks that connect popular biking routes.
The group noted many challenges for pedestrians and bicyclists including the lack of sidewalks on many neighborhood streets, the lack of protected bike lanes or any bike lanes, the lack of connections of bike infrastructure (some bike lanes just end) – and especially, the higher speeds in
many neighborhoods. All of these impediments deter people from wanting to ride and creating dangerous situations for those who do.
Joining the group, was Gil Penalosa, founder of 8-80 Cities, who is often recognized as the creator of “Ciclovia’s” – where city streets are closed to cars and opened to people of all ages and abilities to ride bikes. Penalosa pioneered this concept in Bogota, Colombia, where to this day, 1.7 million people pour into the city streets to ride alone, with friends or with family, every Sunday.
In spite of a few honks and only one rude driver, Penalosa and others found the 13-mile ride enjoyable as the group navigated through city streets, along multi-use trails, across an overpass over 17-92, on SunRail and back to the starting point at the Cady Way Trail in Winter Park.
The group consisted of FDOT representatives, along with city staff from several municipalities, as well as business and community leaders. Also joining the group at the start of the ride was Seminole county commissioner and chairman of MetroPlan Orlando board, Bob Dallari, who strongly stated to the group that he wants our region off the “most dangerous list”, where we’ve continually placed for many years. He encouraged the group to speak to their elected leaders to demand better.
So, we pass on that same advice to you. If you want more protected bike lanes, more or wider sidewalks and infrastructure to be able to ride your bike with your kids or to a park, to school or to work – then speak up. Let your elected leaders know that this is important to you and your family. Attend a council meeting. Join Bike Walk Central Florida or Healthy Central Florida in this important effort. We assure you it makes a difference.
Lastly, we salute cities like Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland and Casselberry who are painting green bike lanes, installing bollards and putting policies in place that prioritize pedestrians and people riding bikes. The healthiest, most attractive places to live in the country are doing just this. It’s good for business, property values, health and for people of all ages.
We invite you to join the movement – and to always wear your helmet, bright colors and ride defensively. Stay safe and watch out for each other out there!